There is nothing objectively wrong with the five names selected for the Associated Press Preseason All-American team. You can argue the merits of every selection, I suppose, but that’s probably not the best use of anyone’s time. The poll is an inherently subjective entity. A group of writers see teams and players they believe deserve special recognition and vote accordingly. Preference – not a secret formula or wins and loss records or point averages – explains selections. And in the preseason, speculation about which players and teams will perform well is the single biggest factor involved in poll selection. So when lists like these are revealed, disagreeing with a player or team here and there is totally reasonable. That’s why so many media outlets publish “power rankings.” But saying one team’s placement on a poll is flat-out wrong doesn’t really make much sense. Selections can be questionable – baffling, even. But can they be wrong? Like, 2 + 2=5 wrong? No. No, they can’t.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Michigan forward Mitch McGary, the most controversial selection on the AP’s team released Monday, which also includes Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, Creighton senior Doug McDermott and Louisville senior Russ Smith. (And no, Wiggins’ spot on the preseason team is not more controversial than McGary’s. If this guy made it without playing a single minute of college basketball beforehand, then Wiggins – perhaps the most highly touted player to ever enter the modern college game, one all but guaranteed to be a top-three pick in the 2014 NBA Draft – deserves a spot. End of discussion. Welcome to the recruiting news-infused college hoops news cycle of 2013).
There are plenty of folks that think McGary, who received the lowest number of votes (34) of the five players chosen, doesn’t belong on the team. They see McGary as a flash in the pan, someone who got hot in March but doesn’t have the regular season numbers to back up the media love he’s getting. Someone America saw on the big stage and, with scant evidence to dispute the legitimacy of the 14.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG numbers he averaged in six NCAA Tournament games (thanks in large part to the casual sports fan’s general apathy toward every college hoops game before March), fell in love with. McGary can’t hold a candle to Wiggins, McDermott, Smith and Smart, the argument goes, because McGary barely existed before the NCAA Tournament started, and because there are so many other players more qualified than him.